The Relation between Pan and Panic

Young Pan, 20 c., L Bakst, US Public Domain
Young Pan, Léon Bakst, 1911, US Public Domain

Pan-like figures are found in cultures around the world. Carl Jung tells a story of the “nocturnal God” he heard of in Kenya. He says:

“The elders of the Elgonyi tribe in Kenya gave me exactly the same description of the nocturnal god whom they call the “maker of fear.” “He comes to you,” they said, “like a cold gust of wind, and you shudder, or he goes whistling round in the tall grass” -an African Pan who glides among the reeds in the haunted noontide hour, playing on his pipes and frightening the shepherds… Thus, in the dream, the breath of the pneuma frightened another pastor, a shepherd of the flock, who in the darkness of the night trod the reed-grown shore in the deep valley of the psyche.” (CW v. 9I, para.36)

A few other notes on Pan:

“Goat-footed Pan, the Arkadian, ememy of the Medes, ally of the Athenians, [he was believed to have created panic in the army of the Medes attacking Athens].” (Simonides, Fragment 6, trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III, from Aaron J. Atsma, theoi.com), C6th to 5th B.C.)

“Panikoi deimati (in Panic terror) : Women used to celebrate customary rites for Pan by shouting. And Menandros in Dyskolos [says] : `One must not approach this god in silence.’ Or because they attributed to Pan things [that happen] for no reason; for example, the enemy seems to attack; and [the soldiers] pick up their weapons in the commotion, form ranks, and attack one another.” (Suidas s.v. Panikoi deimati, trans. Suda On Line, Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D., from Aaron J. Atsma, theoi.com)

Reference:

  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

3 thoughts on “The Relation between Pan and Panic

  1. I use Pan as a reference a lot with clients who are working on anxiety and panic attacks. The myth helps to illuminate the dynamics of the archetype. It’s a difficult topic sometimes, especially for those who have a trauma history, but it makes sense to them and begin moving forward being more confident in the importance of making themselves known (ie. making noise).

    1. Michael,
      Thank you for joining us and sharing your clinical experience. It is wonderful to hear how a mythological image may be worked with in practice. And, also the caring and conscientious way you bring the image to life.

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